In one of the most strait-laced episodes of Dantalian to date, Huey and Dalian encounter a perfumer who is (unwillingly) selling a drug she created with the aid of a phantom book. Huey and Dalian arrive just in time to witness her family and coworkers killed by the gang they collaborated with. They witness the woman take her own life and destroy the recipe and phantom book in an act of “atonement.”
Heightened Emotional Involvement
I’ve complained in the past that Huey and Dalian have shown almost no emotional attachment to the cases they’ve been involved in. This may be the first time Dalian has truly become emotionally involved with the people she met. She even shed tears at the woman’s death. And this was the same woman who, horror of horrors, dropped Dalian’s precious bread on the floor.
Dalian even attempted to comfort the woman on her deathbed. As she travels with Huey, is she becoming more attached to the outside world and the passions of the flesh?
A Deeper Magic from before the Dawn of Time
I believe that this is the first time we’ve heard mention of limitations placed on Dalian’s powers as a mystical library. The limitation is that Dalian cannot use a phantom book to save the same life twice. A restriction like this is not all that surprising— powers such as Dalian’s always seem to come with strings attached.
Passerby through Eternity
Jesus said, “Be passerby.”
— The Gospel of Thomas, v. 42
He has set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
— Ecclesiastes 3:11
In each of the earlier episodes, I was surprised at how small a role Huey and Dalian played in resolving the short stories. Yet now I have come to expect it. There is indeed a purpose to Huey and Dalian’s uselessness. They are powerless and impotent bystanders to history, not actors on the stage of time.
The show’s atmosphere provides an acute sense of timelessness and of isolation, both from the scenes with the girl in the library and from Huey and Dalian’s travels. Huey and Dalian don’t form intimate bonds with the people they meet, and many of the people they do meet happen to die. Huey and Dalian have not been able to prevent any of the tragedies brought about by the phantom books or by magic, only to mitigate their effects. The pair continues to travel without a destination or clear purpose. And who knows how many generations Dalian has journeyed for?
- When Huey reads the book of healing, Huey mentions “Arawn, the king of the otherworld Annwn.” This makes the book most likely part of the Mabinogion.
- The phantom book used for making perfumes is an unnamed Gandharva sacred text. The Gandharva are Hindu nature spirits which dwell in scents and are known for their skill with music.
- I don’t think I ever mentioned the origins of the library of Dantalian. Dantalian is one of the 72 demons of Solomon mentioned in the grimoire, the Lesser Key of Solomon.
The Seventy-first Spirit is Dantalion. He is a Duke Great and Mighty, appearing in the Form of a Man with many Countenances, all Men’s and Women’s Faces; and he hath a Book in his right hand. His Office is to teach all Arts and Sciences unto any; and to declare the Secret Counsel of any one; for he knoweth the Thoughts of all Men and Women, and can change them at his Will. He can cause Love, and show the Similitude of any person, and show the same by a Vision, let them be in what part of the World they Will. He governeth 36 Legions of Spirits; and this is his Seal, which wear thou, etc.
- A similar idea for a mystical library is the subject of Borges’ short story The Library of Babel (Spanish original here). Borges’ library, however, contains all possible books, and not merely Dalian’s comparatively tiny subset of 900,666.